The Popeyes TV Show You Forgot Existed

It seems hard to imagine now when so much of what we watch on TV is streamed, but back in the day, when television was still an emerging technology, just about every city that had a TV station produced its own programming for the younger crowd (via PBS).

Long before "Sesame Street,” one of the longest-running and most popular children's shows in TV history, there were locally produced shows designed to appeal to local kids (and their parents, of course). Many cities had franchised shows for children, including local versions of energetic, wild-haired "Bozo the Clown” (famously played by Willard Scott in the Washington, D.C. market) and the iconic "Romper Room.”

New Orleanians of a certain age remember "Popeye and Pals,” a Saturday morning show that aired on WWL-TV (Channel 4). The show is a New Orleans classic, like beignets, gumbo, red beans and rice, and Popeyes fried chicken itself, according to the book "New Orleans Television,” by Dominic Massa. The show was originally hosted by "Uncle Henry” Dupre, a longtime WWL radio host who transitioned to TV and gained legions of young fans, who joined him in the studio each week and watched from home (via Google Books, pages 45 and 46).

Popeye and Pals: Must-see TV for kids in New Orleans

"Popeye and Pals” debuted in September 1957, shortly after WWL went on the air. When "Uncle Henry" Dupre retired in the 1960s, John Pela stepped in as host, according to "New Orleans Television.”

A clip from "Popeye and Pals” circa 1980 posted on YouTube by Cringevision shows an unnamed female host and an audience of kids, many of them Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, drinking soda and eating Popeyes "pal packs” with fried chicken and biscuits. The show also featured the classic cartoon sailor Popeye.

"I grew up watching this as a kid,” Patrick Peter recalls in comments posted under the YouTube video. "As an adult, I can't believe they were feeding kids fried chicken that early in the morning ... but as a kid I wanted so bad to get over there for that free chicken.”

Another YouTuber, Noladeej, shares a history of Popeyes and includes a short clip of "Popeye and Pals.” Noladeej recalls, "I even remember sitting at home, putting my fingers to my eyes, and saying 'roll 'em,”' just as audience members did before the cartoon segments.

In 1983, "Popeye and Pals” came under fire from a consumer group called Action for Children's Television (via UPI). In a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission, the group claimed the show (then hosted by "Captain Jim”) was nothing but a commercial for Popeyes and that it violated FCC rules on separation of program content and commercial matter. Ultimately, this fried chicken chain has gone through some ups and downs since its founding — Popeyes once lost ownership of its own recipes, for instance — but it remains a popular joint today despite these bumps in the road.